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Democracy not everything in Burma -

Several questions arise after reading Michael Hoffman's summary of Kenichi
Ohmae's recent article in Sapio magazine. 

1)  Is this man really a professor at UCLA?  If so, where is his office?
Shouldn't his views be protested there by Burmese democracy activists?  (Our
search of UCLA's website didn't find him listed on the faculty.)

2)  Don't we have an obligation to correct his mistaken views?  Shouldn't he
be sent, preferrably via e-mail, the most recent human rights, health, and
economic reports that clearly contradict his position? 

3)  What can be done to counter his distorted picture of SLORC's Burma and
balance his article for Sapio readers?  How can we provide accurate,
detailed information to Sapio's editors, in hopes they will see fit to
present the other side?

Sapio Magazine
2-3-1 Hitotsubashi
Chiyoda ku
Tokyo 101-01
Tel:  03-3230-5800
(They will not accept e-mail or fax letters to the editor.  They probably
will not welcome anything not in Japanese either, but what the heck!  Let
'em return it.)

4)  Anyone wishing to write to Mainichi Daily News editors may do so at

Burmese Relief Center--Japan welcomes all suggestions.

With metta,

 - - - - - - -
Democracy not everything in Burma

from Mainichi Daily News 
Nov. 13, 1997
- Asiascope, Features on Asia from Japanese magazines summarized and
presented by Michael Hoffman

Democracy not everything in Burma

Is Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and ? if elections confer
legitimacy ? the legitimate President of Burma, becoming a millstone around
her country's neck?  Japanese management consultant and UCLA professor
Kenichi Ohmae thinks so.  Writing in Sapio (11/12), Ohmae congratulates the
military junta on a job well done and relegates its leading nemesis to
history's shadows.

"In another year or two, Suu Kyi will be a figure of the past," he says.   

True, Ohmae concedes, she did win by a staggering majority (though under
house arrest at the time) national elections held in 1990, and true, her
victory led her not to office but to five more years of incarceration.  But
Burma's SLORC ? the State Law and Order Restoration Council ? did not invent
the coup d'etat; in fact, Ohmae points out, roughly half the world's 189
countries have experienced similar trauma at one time or another.  The key
question in his view is not how SLORC came to power but what it has done
with that power since.  He reviews the record in glowing terms.

He begins by quoting the chairman of the South Korean textile and appliance
conglomerate Daewoo as saying, "Compared to 10 years ago, (Burma) today is
like heaven.  There is big money to be made, and workers' enthusiasm is rising."

There are goods in the marketplace, a broadening infrastructure? and no
troops in the streets.  "One has absolutely no feeling that this is a
country under a military regime."  Martial law, in Ohmae's view, is
gradually shedding its more onerous features.

SLORC's Burma as Ohmae sees it is a well-ordered, peaceful land, its cities
among the few in Asia where one can walk alone at night without fear.  There
are no slums, because rural farmers are all landowners whose economic
self-sufficiency spares them the need to pour into cities in search of
nonexistent jobs.  The economic statistics are not impressive ? per capita
GNP is 300 dollars to 400 dollars ? but in a largely rural economy "that is
not a minus."  The yawning gap between rich and poor, manifest in countries
like Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, is not in evidence here.

SLORC has the business community 100 percent behind it, Ohmae maintains.
"All the businessmen I spoke to say the same."  Their common fear is that
Suu Kyi in power would be a rerun of Corazon Aquino's presidency in the
Philippines? excellent intentions marred by political ineptitude.

Of course the business community is not the whole country, and Ohmae admits
that if an election were held tomorrow "the lady" would emerge the
overwhelming winner ? three to one, he figures.  But is that sufficient
reason, he asks, for the United States to elevate Suu Kyi to Joan of Arc
status and to impose a trade embargo on the country?  China, he points out,
is no democracy, and yet the United States is going to great lengths to woo
it as a trading partner.  Why is Burma different?

One reason is the drug traffic based in Burma's impoverished north ? traffic
the United States claims SLORC encourages and profits from.  An
exaggeration, counters Ohmae, quoting a SLORC official that "the government
is risking its life" in a war on drugs.

Whether it is or not, business is flourishing, new highways are drawing once
inaccessible regions into the economic bonanza, and "the times are moving
beyond Suu Kyi."

If so, it is a poor return for the martyrdom of thousands and the suffering
of thousands more.